An external audit report being presented to councillors this week shows the need for urgent action on the council’s budget.
A critical report from Brighton & Hove City Council’s external auditors was discussed last week at Audit & Standards Committee. The report contains a red rated judgement for the financial sustainability of the council. A red rating signifies that urgent action is needed by the council to improve their financial situation.
Citing unprecedented pressures including the continued impact of the pandemic on funds, “the long shadow of Brexit” and additional pressures in children’s and adult social care, the council’s auditors Grant Thornton have highlighted their concerns that “the council’s financial position is becoming significantly more challenging”.
Greens say that although the report does not make for good reading, the alarms they have been raising for a prolonged period reflect the need for urgent and adequate funding from central government.
It comes as the council prepares its budget for 2023/24, which will be decided at the annual budget council meeting in February. Already some concerns have been raised about proposed savings, which Greens say are due to the need to find around £20m of savings this year.
Cllr Siriol Hugh-Jones, Deputy Leader of the Council and Green Spokesperson on Audit and Standards said:
“This report should sound a loud alarm for action from all parties. Time and time again we have raised our concerns regarding the need for better funding from Government. But they also show once again the challenging picture ahead.
“We now face the awful decisions we never wanted to make. And in doing so, we must be aware of the impact on residents. We will continue to work to protect essential public services and minimise the disastrous impact of thirteen years of Tory Government austerity.
“So far, we have seen little acknowledgement of the serious nature of the budget position from opposition parties. All councillors need to realise that the council has a duty to balance its budget – if councillors vote against a specific proposal, they need to be able to find savings elsewhere. Despite this, we continue to seek to work collaboratively with all parties to generate ideas to save our services.”
Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty added:
“The external auditor report of the council’s finances demonstrates what Greens have been arguing for every year of austerity: thirteen years of Tory cuts have horrific consequences. Over that time over £110 million has been stolen from our budget. The report states that there needs to be an urgent focus on our financial outlook.
“We urge all councillors to put the city first, recognise this a warning of our financial stability and treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves.”